Miller Pays Encouragement Forward
Ronda Miller has decades of life, career and educational experience. When all of those things collided at once, the encouragement of a professor helped her through. Now, she’s able to pay it forward – and do the same for her students as an instructor at Bellevue University.
Lifelong Dedication to Her Country, Her Education
Miller grew up in the military; her dad served in the U.S. Air Force. Following a similar path, she worked for the Department of the Air Force for 27 years, supporting aerospace and nuclear defense missions. “I was lucky enough to serve at five military bases as a career civilian,” she said.
While progressing through her career and starting her family, she kept her eye on getting an education, no matter what it took. She went to several schools before earning a bachelor’s degree with a double major in human resources management and business management.
“My career and tuition costs had me breaking between semesters, and it lengthened the time it took me to graduate,” she said. “When I was able to buckle down and get the undergraduate degrees done, I was a wife, mom of a toddler, pregnant with another daughter and working full time.”
After completing her undergraduate degree, Miller kept going with a Master of Arts in Communications. A friend recommended Bellevue University for her graduate studies. “The class length was longer than some other universities, but that felt a little like more traditional colleges. I interpreted that to mean they cared about education more than profits,” she said.
“I also found that they were military friendly and had online programs available,” she said.
Encouragement During a Trying Time
When Miller began her master’s degree at Bellevue University, her daughters were very young. She also was working full time, went through a divorce and moved to Japan, but was still able to continue her studies. “I tell people about that because I was able to juggle all of that and still earn my degree,” she said.
Recognizing she learned a lot in her graduate program, Miller says the thing that stuck with her the most was an interaction with one of her professors, Dr. Kate Joeckel.
“I do not remember which class it was, but I was feeling low about all the things going in my life. I read a feedback grade from Dr. Joeckel, and she complimented my writing style and encouraged me to consider writing as an outlet or a career. She gave me the boost I needed to re-instill self-worth. We exchanged several emails during class and I continued to keep in touch with her until I graduated.”
After earning her master’s degree, Miller completed a doctorate of psychology at University of the Rockies. The program included several in-person residencies, including two where she had to fly from Japan to Denver, Colo.
“That was exhausting, but I did it!“ she said.
When Miller was publishing her dissertation for her Ph.D., she included Dr. Joeckel in her acknowledgements and reached out to let her former instructor know.
“When we reconnected, she told me that I was a bright spot in her life during that time as well. As much as she gave me, I had unknowingly given to her. I am a firm believer that people don't remember what you did, but they do remember the way you make them feel. Kate was so positive and gave me such hope when I needed it most. That type of impact on me as a student is lifelong. I'll always be grateful that Dr. Joeckel changed me.”
Moving Her Career Forward with Education
Completing her master's degree helped Miller advance to the highest local civil service grade available and lead large organizations. After completing her doctorate, she made the difficult decision to leave federal service. However, between her professional experience and her education, she was highly sought after. After a grueling interview process, Miller was able to accept her choice of two high-level positions at Northrop Grumman.
She has taught several courses throughout her career, but recently began teaching in higher education at Bellevue University. “Dr. Joeckel had a positive impact on me and I want to pay that forward,” she said. “Teaching as an alumnus is ideal!”
Miller teaches Oral Communications. “My favorite part about this course is watching students improve from delivering their first speech to their last. You can visibly see the growth in students during 12 short weeks,” she said.
She applies the lessons she learned at Bellevue University both at work and in her classes.
“As I mentor members of my work team and students, I advise them that your undergraduate degree is so broad that it feels like you learn and take tests. Your graduate degree changes the way your mind thinks. Critical thinking becomes second nature for you,” she said.
Miller’s students inspire her and she hopes to continue to inspire them.
“I am a working professional and know what it takes to be successful in public and private industry. I have tried and failed and tried and succeeded,” she said. “Along the way, I learned that good people make mistakes but that doesn't make them bad people. I strive to be an inspirational leader to make a difference in people's lives. I hope I bring accountability and inspiration to my students.”
Miller lives in Plain City, Utah with her husband, daughters and mother.